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All Eyes on Iraq Study Group - And Biden

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The Iraq Study Group, the 10-member, bipartisan panel studying America's disastrous Iraq policy, announced yesterday that they have reached consensus on their recommendations and will present their findings on December 6. And, while every eye on Capitol Hill will be on that report before the ink is dry, just as anticipated will be Senator Joe Biden's (D-DE) reaction to the group's advice for George W. Bush on the conduct of the war. Biden, who will be the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the 110th Congress convenes in January, has already expressed strong preferences of his own for how things need to change in the country's Iraq policy and whether or not he embraces the Baker-Hamilton commission's findings will be key to the overall bipartisan support that can be expected. "I look forward to the release of the Iraq Study Group's report next week," said Biden on Wednesday. "While I will reserve judgment on the actual report until I see it, I am hopeful that it will garner bipartisan support." And Biden, a likely candidate for president in 2008, has already spelled out what elements must be included in any future Iraq plans to get that support.
"First, the report must tackle the issue of U.S. troop deployments. The best way to get the Iraqis to concentrate on making the hard political decisions and compromises is to make clear to them that the presence of our troops in their present large numbers is not open-ended. "Second, the report must propose a clear political road map for Iraq. As we redeploy, we must exert maximum pressure on the Iraqis for a sustainable political settlement that deals with federalism, sharing oil revenue and the militias. Redeployment alone is not a plan -- it is a means to help bring about the political settlement needed if we are to avoid a full-blown civil war and regional conflict. "Third, the report must speak to the engagement of Iraq's neighbors. We should convene an international conference and stand up an oversight group of major countries to support a political settlement in Iraq -- or, if chaos ensues anyway -- to help contain its fallout within Iraq. There can be no sustainable peace in Iraq without the support of its neighbors, including Iran, Syria and Turkey."
And like Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who has made it clear that January will not end without an increase in the federal minimum wage, Biden is a man on a mission and has already announced that the new Congress will begin with the Foreign Relations Committee holding six weeks of hearings on Iraq. If the Delaware Democrat isn't happy with proposals from the Iraq Study Group, that report may quickly become fish wrap and Biden will simply produce his own findings and recommendations for how the U.S. should proceed in Iraq. Note to Republicans: That kind of thing is called Congressional oversight and, while it's been an endangered species in Washington the last few years, you may want to get used to seeing it again.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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